Containers or beds?
Column 5 in Homegrown, Weekend Magazine, Sunshine Coast Daily, by Zaia Kendall
Tom and I are lucky to live in paradise and be land custodians. We have been able to plant our vegetables and fruits in (raised) garden beds, food forests and a Syntropic system. How much space you have to play with determines whether you grow in the ground, in containers or both.
For those of you with some land or access to a community garden, you can create raised garden beds. Making raised garden beds will not disturb the existing soil life. To convert your lawn into garden beds, you can sheet mulch by putting cardboard or thick layers of newspaper down, followed by compost and topsoil. You can wait a few weeks until the grass (or weeds) have died under the cardboard or you can add more soil so you do not need to make any holes in your sheet mulch when planting. Please do not use carpet as sheet mulch, as carpets can be toxic.
Make sure that you put thick mulch on top of your raised garden beds (dry cut grass, sugar cane mulch etc) to ensure compost and top soil don’t dry out and lose their soil biota.
The layers for a raised garden bed are (from bottom to top): sheet mulch (cardboard or thick layers of newspaper), compost only or compost and top soil, thick layer of mulch (cut grass or sugar cane mulch).
You can plant diverse vegetables suited to the time of year and your climate (we are subtropical on the Sunny Coast) directly into the mulch. Make a small hole in the mulch, add one or two handfuls of compost or soil and plant your seedling into it. Ensure you have lots of variety in a garden bed to confuse bugs, stimulate soil life and encourage beneficial insects. This is just one way to plant of course, there are more ways to plant. Some people do “Hugelkultur” (a specific type of raised bed, look it up on Google), some people use enormous amounts of wood chip to plant directly into. Look at the resources available to you and work with what works for you and your environment.
For those of you without land or access to land, container gardening is the way to go. Containers are not just pots, you can make a garden out of plastic tubs (look up “wicking beds” on Google, larger plastic tubs are ideal for that especially in places with little water) and repurpose old containers. You can put hanging plants in old plastic milk bottles (I have even seen strawberries growing in those!). Use old shoes or gumboots as pot alternatives. Build a vertical garden out of lesser blocks, old guttering or old pallets. Any container can be used as a mini garden. There are lots of container gardening ideas on Pinterest.
For seedlings, use egg cartons or make a little container out of newspaper. You can plant them straight into soil with the container they are in, so you do not disturb the roots. Once the plant gets big enough, the newspaper or cardboard has rotted away so their roots can spread.
Forum for questions: www.permeco.org/forums/
Permaculture Design Certificate by donation, pay what you can afford, online or residential, or for more free permaculture information go to www.permeco.org
Here is our general gardening Youtube playlist (includes garden bed creation and seed planting):